Chaonei No. 81 also known as Chaonei Church was erected at the turn of the century in Peking, China. Located at Chaoyangmennei Street it’s been designated a historic building and despite the surrounding area being renovated, this brick, three-story French Baroque-style structure remains tenantless. Many believe this is due to its notorious reputation as one of China’s most haunted houses.
Urbex explorers and legend trippers alike coming seeking an eerie experience, especially an encounter with the ghost of a suicidal woman abandoned when her lover left to Taiwan in 1949, fleeing the Communist takeover of China.
The origins of the building are surrounded in mystery due to missing historical records. After 1949 it was used as offices for the government, and during the 1960s the Red Guards occupied the site. They made a hasty departure which many believe was due to the ghosts that exist within the walls of Chonoei No. 81. In the 1990s, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Beijing became the owners, with plans to possibly establish an embassy for the Vatican there.
It was renovated in 2016.
The building sits on the site of the ancient Chaoyangmen Gate which was a gate in the Peking city fortification constructed from the 1400s to 1553. It was demolished in 1965 for the construction of the Second Ring Road.
Peking was the capital of the last three imperial dynasties, the Yuan, Ming and Qing, and is often referred to as the antique capital of the five dynasties. Inside the thick walls, the Forbidden City, the Imperial City, the Inner City and the Outer City were protected by one of the most formidable defense systems in Imperial China.
With the end of the Qing dynasty in 1911, the dismantling of the fortifications started.
The three buildings that make up Chanoei No. 81 are comprised of a main house, a second , larger house and the garage.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese claim it was built in 1910 as the North China Union Language School to teach Chinese to western missionaries. Twenty years later, it became the California College in China, and it offered classes to diplomats, scholars and businessmen.
However other historians contest this version claiming the California College was a different building altogether. They say Chaonei No. 81 was built in 1922, and occupied by a French engineer, Georges Bouillard who was the manager of the Peking–Hankow railway, and helped in its construction. He then worked as a correspondent for the French School of East Asian Studies in Peking.
Bouillard died in 1930, and was interred in the Zhanlan'er Cemetery. The home then became the property of his widow, Zhu Derong. In 1946, she rented the first floor to the Augustinian Convent, and other rooms housed as an infirmary and a chapel, thus becoming a church.
According to this version, Zhu Derong sold it in 1948, to a Lazarist priest, however she remained living on the first floor. In 1951, foreign missionaries were evicted, and it fell into the hands of the Communist Party which had taken over in 1949.
Georges Bouillard's widow continued to live there until the mid 1960s. Aged and infirm, one day she disappeared and no mention is found of her death or burial.
Others suggest that it was built by the Imperial Chinese government in 1900 as a gift to the British government or the Catholic Church to be used as a church or to house missionaries.
By the 1930s it became the property of a Catholic American Benedictine group. In 1937, an Irish priest tried to use it and then afterwards Belgian Augustinian nuns ran a clinic and ministered to the injured during WWII until 1946. When the Communist took over China in 1949, it was being run by the Irish Presbyterian Mission.
According to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the present owners, it was never occupied by a Kuomintang officer which forms part of the urban myth surrounding the site.
After the 1980s it sat empty and abandoned. In 2011, Hong Kong filmmakers based a horror film titled The House That Never Dies set in Chaonei No. 81. The filming took place in another house, but the production crew and actors visited the house and the film was released in 2014. The film caused young Chinese to flock to the house, and others engaged in cosplay with the house in the background. At that time the gates were closed.
During the 1970s, children would play games in the house, but never by themselves, aware of its reputation as a haunted place.
The identity of the ghost is a woman, the wife or lover of an officer during the Chinese Civil War who was left behind when he left to Taiwan. She hung herself from one of the rafters. She can be heard screaming from the empty house, especially during thunderstorms.
Claims of disappearing people, started with a British priest who supposedly built it as a church. He went missing before the completion. Those sent to look for him found a tunnel inside a crypt that led to the Dashanzi neighborhood. In the 1990s, another incident involved three construction workers who got drunk on the job. They were working in the basement of a neighboring building and they decided to break through the dividing wall into Chanoei No. 81. That was the last seen of them. It’s believed this incident is what stopped the plans to demolish it.
However you don’t have to go inside to experience eerie sensation, as those walking by describe feelings of dread, and that during the summer it’s always cooler in the doorway of the mansion versus modern houses close by.
Source - Ignition
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer